When the weather was tempestuous, with the winds from the east, we would be bundled into the car and taken off to that famous lighthouse – as written about by Virginia Woolf …
… Woolf’s parents, shortly after her birth in 1882, started regularly renting a house in St Ives … so even though her story “To the Lighthouse” is set on Skye – one can see how Godrevy would have influenced her thoughts.
… the drive from Carbis Bay via Lelant village, round the Saltings onto that causeway built in 1825, obviously somewhat updated!, but into Hayle, past the old harbours, through Foundry Square and along the sad road of ribbon development …
Then we’d be free of the town and most settlement … the small road along the coast took us up past Gwithian to a cliff clamber (50 metres/ 160 foot) down to the more sheltered beach and rocks below – opposite Godrevy lighthouse … and over the bay to St Ives.
|The cliff we'd clamber down|
The Towans, as the sand dunes to the east of Hayle are known, form a 3 mile protected site – where the habitat of sand dune and grassland is suited to a variety of wildlife and plants, including pyramidal orchids, glow worms, adders, silver-studded blue butterflies and skylarks …
Believe it or not a Bronze Age farm (1700BC to 500BC) is now buried by the Gwithian Towans … it was only found in the early 1800s after the shifting sands released the oratory, built in 490 AD, and said to be one of the oldest Christian buildings in England, along with another in Cornwall.
book holds the records of this part of Cornwall … in 1086 AD there was land for
40 ploughs, 30 villagers, 20 small-holders and 30 serfs are recorded; there was
a mill, 300 sheep, 40 wild mares and 21 other animals.
The institutions recording these details were moved to Penzance in 1771 or thereabouts … following large successive inundations of blown sand.
the patron saint of good fortune on the sea – sad then that Charles 1’s wardrobe
and personal belongings were wrecked together with a crew of sixty. The wreck occurred on the day of Charles’
death – 30 January, 1649 – not a propitious one for the crew or him.
SS Nile - wrecked in 1850
We had lots of fun down on the beach … we could paddle, rush at the waves as they crashed through the rocks, jump from one to another … the beach had red shells just beautiful …
|View of the mining area|
Camborne - Redruth (c 1890)
Gwithian beach is now beloved by surfers, windsurfers, and other beach-sport enthusiasts – also patrolled by lifeguards from Easter to September.
Though after the War – the area was not encumbered by tourists … especially as the waters around Godrevy are very dangerous.
The Lighthouse was built in 1858/9 … the island rock marks the Stones reef, which has been a hazard to shipping for centuries. In 1854 the SS Nile was lost in a storm after striking the reef … with the loss of all hands, the ship and its contents …
requests had been made to build a light on Godrevy … it was only when a local
clergyman from Hayle started a petition to Trinity House – the authority for
lighthouses – that it was agreed to build the lighthouse.
Surfing off Gwithian
“To the Lighthouse” will always resonate with me as Godrevy, where we so often went to play … lots of early memories and now a bit more historical education …
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